From 70’s rock groupies like Bebe Buell and Pamela Des Barres, who wrote a book chronicling her backstage shenanigans with the likes of Mick Jagger, to the girls of the Rock of Love reality TV series starring Bret Michaels, it seems like a lot of women have sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll on the brain. From a distance, these women all seem to have a lot in common: absent fathers, a need to be loved, desire to make it in the entertainment industry. Upon closer observation, some of these women have a whole lot more going on, such as Roxana Shirazi, author of The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage. With a history as diverse as an upbringing in Tehran, Iran and a subsequent move to London before her teen years (not to mention that M.A. in English) , Roxana certainly breaks the mold when it comes to women bred and molded backstage. She shares some of her reflections on this lifestyle and the book that chronicles those times.
Did you approach your book with the knowledge that it would shock and entertain, or did you come at it from the perspective that it would also inform? Do you think your experience is similar to other young women who spend most of their time backstage, or do you think this is a truly unique story? What do your friends and family think of the book and the attention you have gotten because of it?
I have always wrote about and spoken at conferences on taboo issues such as child abuse in Iran. I have always wanted to break stereotypes and socially understood norms, especially gender and sexual norms. I wanted to present my journey as how it has been; full of sexual experimentation, academia, political upheaval and cultural turmoil. I know that there must be other women out there who have experienced very similar things to me. I know that lots of Iranian women are very sexually promiscuous in Iran and have similar split identities to mine; with me I have the freedom to write about it, with them they must keep it totally secret for fear of death. My family have been very supportive and for that I am grateful.
HarperCollins was brave enough to take on the controversial subject matter of your manuscript. Were you worried about getting this published, or were you sure that the story needed to be heard and would eventually find its place? What makes your story interesting to the average American music lover?
I was a bit worried, yes. I was worried about the musicians in the book rather than my life. I didn't want to hurt them. Thank God for HarperCollins because there are so many unique stories in our world. Harper has contributed to the art of this world by bringing to life a unique force; they have given form to deconstructing socially understood norms. In the music sense, I guess it can give the average American reader an all-access pass into the life of what goes on backstage and behind closed doors and after the show is over.
I understand the need and love of the backstage life, meeting rock gods and getting to be part of something bigger than yourself. Did you see these trysts as simple fun, or did you think of them as more? You have mentioned previously in other interviews that Dizzy Reed was more than just a fling. Did you go into these encounters with hope for more, or was it simply for the fun and the hell of it?
I was in love with rock ‘n roll or the idea of it. In my mind I romanticized it as being this sexually and spiritually liberating place when in actual fact it was full of rules and regulations, like an office. I went into it to push boundaries, go to extremes and experience these things for myself but in the end I found it too limiting. I think I thought everyone was going to be like Jim Morrison: an intellectual poet!
How would you describe the pictures in your book in terms of how you have developed and grown in terms of your upbringing in Tehran and subsequent move to London? Do these pictures represent you as a person, or are they merely meant to shock? (I think they are terrific, by the way).
Thank you! I found myself becoming more sexually confident as I grew older-I was always very in touch with what got me off sexually, so I guess with the photos it shows a journey of my ‘sunshiney’ childhood and then the massive culture shock I experienced when I was sent to England. I hope the photos speak for themselves in showing all aspects of my personality.
What music or groups are you feeling right now? Are you planning another book?
I have always been in love with The Doors, John Lennon and Leonard Cohen...that will never end! But occasionally I am so in the mood for Slayer and Norweigan black metal. As for my next book...now that is all very secret!